The Water Cooled IC-V8000

I’ve always had a soft spot for the way Icom designs their mobile ham rigs. See, someone at Icom realized that hams are ridiculously longwinded and will overheat many commercial grade radios made for the typical 5/5/90 duty cycle (5% TX, 5% RX, 90% standby) easily… so they designed most of their radios with giant passive heatsinks integral with the exterior chassis of the radio. On some of their radios there is a small cooling fan at the back that pushes a little more airflow over the chassis if needed. I used to have an old IC-229H which just had a huge passive heatsink at the back, and there’s an IC-2100H in my parents’ car that just does the whole case/heatsink thing for cooling.

Unfortunately someone, in the process of building an Echolink node around an IC-V8000, thought they needed a bit more cooling and then this happened…

 I don’t entirely understand WHY this was done — the radio has a very large heatsink of its own… or HAD a very large heatsink of its own, as it may be. It’s a 75W radio and could easily be turned down to mid or low power to further reduce heating problems without doing… that.
The images were found on Facebook and I’m presenting them anonymously to protect the guilty party XD
Shown below is an unmolested reference model:

MC4 disconnect tool / wrench


Trust me, if you work on solar energy systems, you need at least one of these. If you affix mc4 connectors in the field, you need two. The side prongs will effortlessly squeeze the locking tabs on a connector without damage (though you appear to need a different tool for the evil Amphenol ones), and the odd shaped hole will stop the connector from turning as you use the spanner end to tighten the weatherproof packing at the bottom. Yay.

Anon Radio

For when you just want to talk…

There are three major license-free radio services available in the US that are of interest to us: CB, FRS, and MURS. Using these, well, you don’t need a license and nobody needs to know who you are. Thus, they may be Anon Radio.

CB Radio

This was the first service. Back in ancient history it did have licenses, call signs, and all that stuff. Now it  effectively just comes out of a blister pack at Sprawlmart. CB uses the frequency range of 26.965 to 27.405 Mhz, divided into 40 channels each spaced 10 KHz apart. Yes, all of them end in .xx5, which is weird as hell but who cares.* The signals are usually amplitude modulated; single sideband (SSB) is also allowable on this band.

Notable channels: In many municipalities, channel 9 is monitored by local law enforcement, REACT team volunteers, truckers, and roadside assistance personnel as an emergency call channel. CB radios may have a switch or button to quickly jump here if needed. The frequency is 27.065 Mhz and it may be interesting to leave it in your scanner.

Channel 19 is often used by truckers.  Channels above 30 are often used for SSB. If you have a basic AM only radio you may hear distorted sounding transmissions up here. Radios capable of SSB transmission and reception will have an LSB / AM / USB switch to set the mode to match other users on the channel. SSB tends to be more efficient in terms of how far away you can still continue to talk as signal levels become marginal.

These signals tend to get out best in open spaces and get blocked pretty badly by buildings. However, when the earth’s ionosphere becomes charged up appropriately, you can get “skip” which will carry your signal hundreds of miles by bouncing it back to earth from a high altitude.

The wavelength of the radio signal down here is around 11 meters long, meaning that the common 1/4 wavelength antenna would be taller than you are. CB is most useful communicating between vehicles and/or base stations where you can easily mount a fairly tall antenna. Handheld CB radios do exist but the antennas are either very inefficient or impractically long!

Channel recommendations: ? (any suggestions?)

FRS Radio

FRS is a somewhat more recent service, it was initially opened up in 1996. It used to be totally polluted in most urban areas before everyone and their cat got cell phones with unlimited minutes and text. It operates around 452 Mhz and the radios and antennas are quite pleasantly small. Hell, some smartphones are now bigger than the FRS radio and antenna. There are 14 channels here.

BULLSHIT ALERT: On most FRS radios there are ‘subchannels’, ‘sub codes’, or whatever the manufacturer chooses to call them. They might like you to believe that the radios on both ends have to be set to the same channel and subchannel to receive a transmission. THIS IS NOT TRUE and no privacy is offered by this feature. What it is, basically, is that the ‘subcode’ is a “CTCSS” or “PL” tone. If you set the code to 00 or OFF on a radio, or hold the monitor button, it is in “carrier squelch” operation and it no longer matters what tone or DCS code the radio on the other end is sending, you will hear anyone on the channel as long as the signal’s strong enough to detect. The only use for these tones/codes is just basically to keep the radio from bugging you unless someone’s transmitting the same tone with their audio. It’s just a selective calling/muting feature. It is, however, useful just to make sure the radio doesn’t bother you with transmissions you aren’t interested in or random noise bursts.

Irritating Bullshit Features: Turn off the “roger beep” (a pointless beep the radio sends after you let go of the push to talk switch) and never press the CALL button or I will use radio direction finding techniques to track you down and pour Elmer’s Glue down your airways. On some radios the roger beep is turned on and off from the menu, on others you hold one of the buttons while turning it on to disable it. The call button just sends an irritating ringing noise for a couple of seconds. Why the HELL is it even there?!

Channel 1 is recommended to be monitored as an emergency use channel, if you’re gonna talk like /b/, stay to 6 / 9. 🙂

Recommended channels here: 6 / 9 for what the hell ever. 4 / 2 for more technical discussion, 3 / 14 pi (22 / 7 on a GMRS radio, *almost* pi). I usually monitor 6 / 9. I guess we could come up with our own band plan for this but honestly who cares? 😀


Now here’s where it gets weird! MURS is a license free service, five channels in the 151 and 154 Mhz VHF range. I have not seen any radios specifically made just for MURS use. Since MURS was “recycled” out of a rarely used business radio service that once did require licenses, the FCC chose to allow any type accepted radio for that band to be used there.

The frequencies are 151.820, 151.880, 151.940, 154.970, and 154.600. Note that if you are near a Walmart store, you will probably find at least one of the channels in use by the store. This is because they are too damn cheap to license proper business class frequencies for their stores. (The frequency and PL may vary by store.)

The least expensive option for a radio here is probably something like the Baofeng UV-3R, Wouxun KG-UVD1P, or similar. Note that these radios are also very useful for ham radio frequencies should you decide to get a license for that.
*  I’m guessing this has something to do with the common 0.455 Mhz receiver IF frequency but the Nobody Gives A Damn alarm just went off.

Web 1.0

I wish I could find the awesome old article on the origins of this, but alas… it has vanished from the Web, last seen around 2003. However, the work itself, I have carefully archived and redeployed. Enjoy… The Monkey Pit!

User interface design FAIL? In MY automobile?

It’s more likely than you think!!


The next time you turn on your car, leave the key in the “RUN” position without turning it all the way to start and look at the lights that will appear on the dashboard. You should notice somewhere a small battery icon.

And there, folks, is the fail, for despite being a glowing battery icon, this light does not indicate a problem with the vehicle’s BATTERY.

I’m not going to put up schematics and stuff because that’s just getting too technical* for this. In short, the battery light indicates a problem with your vehicle’s ALTERNATOR.

The ALTERNATOR light, which inexplicably has a freaking BATTERY painted on it, indicates that the vehicle’s alternator is not charging the battery when it SHOULD BE. It came on when you turned the ignition on without starting the engine because the alternator is not being spun by the engine. Once the engine is running it should go out, because the alternator is being spun and is generating electric current to recharge the battery.

You may see the light occasionally flicker under any situation that keeps the alternator from spinning. Driving through a puddle may wet the belt and cause it to slip, causing the light to flicker. Forcing the engine RPM too low on a vehicle with a manual transmission will also make it flicker. In either case it will go out once the alternator spins back up to operating speed.

If the alternator fails to generate power, due to a broken/failed belt (you may also notice a loss of power steering assist and air conditioning!), the light will come on. The car will stop running once the battery runs out of power.

If the alternator itself fails, it may also turn on the battery light. Note that the battery light signal is generated by the alternator, so a particularly rotten failure of the alternator’s internal electronics may not necessarily turn on the light. My father had the electronic voltage regulation controls inside the alternator on a Volvo 740  fail like this while driving on the Florida’s Turnpike in the middle of nowhere – the first sign of trouble was when the antilock brake controller (dimly) illuminated its fault light due to the low input voltage!

Soooo… why not label the light “ALTERNATOR”? Even the execrably designed NABI 40LFW transit bus has the light labelled as “GEN STOP”. Suggesting that it means the GENerator has STOPped working is infinitely more useful.

* me, resisting the urge to geek out about how this actually works? INSANE

Solar Safety: High Current Fault video

A common mistake I see some people make when designing a solar energy system is that they will parallel the outputs of the solar panels without using a combiner box that has fuses or breakers.

This works fine in the “yeah, the lights come on” sense, but if you should ever have a fault in one of the modules, you may very well experience a fire at the module that will spread to any other flammable materials nearby….. yes, that means your ROOF.

Note that while the solar panel’s encapsulant and backsheet self-extinguish and only exhibit a couple millimeters of flame spread, the sheet of paper I taped to it to simulate the flammable debris that *will* gather around your panels does not! 🙂

Flammable crap you will typically find around and on your panels includes oily soot from smoke/automobile exhaust, dried leaves, paper, bird nests… anything the wind or animals can bring in!